FOR A FEW minutes yesterday, Chip Kelly seemed to have tempted fate and lost.
At Kelly's news conference, the Eagles' coach talked of how impressed he is with Bryce Brown, despite Saturday's fumble in Jacksonville. Then Kelly segued into how lucky he feels, with Brown and Chris Polk backing up starting running back LeSean McCoy.
An hour or so later, Brown was writhing on the Lincoln Financial Field turf, surrounded by coaches and trainers. He was helped off the field to a sideline examining table, where, after some probing, manipulating and discussing, head athletic trainer Chris Peduzzi retaped Brown's left ankle. Brown jogged around a bit, grabbed a final word with the team orthopedist, Dr. Peter DeLuca, then headed back to practice.
"All I remember is a lineman stepping on it, my body falling one way and my foot staying flat," Brown said afterward. "I honestly felt like I broke it. I got up and was able to put pressure on it, so I felt like that was a good sign."
Brown said he was going to get a more extensive exam after talking to reporters. The ankle definitely still hurt, he said, but he hopes to play in the preseason finale Thursday night at the Jets.
Saturday, Brown rushed 11 times for 92 yards and a touchdown. But the headline was his fumble at the Jags' 3, spoiling a 23-yard run. The ball bounced into the end zone and out of bounds, giving Jacksonville a touchback.
Last season, as a 21-year-old rookie who'd played in only 13 college games, Brown lost three fumbles in only 115 rushing attempts. He also gained 178 yards on 19 carries in his first career start, against Carolina, and 169, on 24 carries, the next week at Dallas. So the Eagles were willing to work with him on the fumbling thing.
Saturday, maybe a bit like Michael Vick, Brown showed how he can help you and how he can hurt you.
"I know that's been an issue here in the past," Kelly said yesterday. "On that particular play, their defensive back put his hat on the football . . . I give their guy credit."
Asked a followup question about Brown, Kelly made it clear he doesn't consider fumbling the bottom line on Brown and his future here:
"Tough, hard, physical runner. He's got outstanding speed for a big guy. Really is decisive when he makes decisions on where he wants to go. He's a downhill, one-cut guy. I really have been impressed with Bryce as a runner," Kelly said, just before baiting the football gods. "It's a luxury to have when you've got a couple of guys - Chris has played real well, and obviously we have LeSean, but the three of those guys, I would put that group up against anybody."
McCoy and Brown definitely are 1 and 2 in what promises to be an offense that emphasizes the run more than Andy Reid's West Coast attack did (Saturday night notwithstanding). McCoy is the king of the cutback, a darting, elusive runner. Listed at 220, Brown is 10 to 15 pounds heavier than McCoy. He has a more punishing style.
"My thing is get to the green and use my speed. I got a lot of confidence in my speed," Brown said. "I might not be the fastest player out there, but I feel like in a given situation . . . I can outrun anybody."
Brown said he knows he is still learning. That's really an understatement, given his background. Name another NFL player with 13 games' worth of college behind him.
"I want to be considered a great back. I know I have a long ways to go," Brown said. "I came in and watched film yesterday with [running-backs coach Duce Staley]. Duce is hard on me. He's one of the guys I like to watch film with, because I know he'll be honest, he'll critique me hard . . . He's played the game, he knows what it takes to be great."
Right guard Todd Herremans said: "Bryce does a really good job of setting up the block. He's not going to get behind you and 'shake.' He'll lead one way, let you cover him up, and make his decision and get north."
Brown said he thinks his biggest problem in securing the ball is keeping it tight to his body in traffic, something he's working on.
Someone asked Kelly about the fact that both Brown and another promising, explosive second-year player, Damaris Johnson, fumbled the ball away in Jacksonville. Johnson also notched a 37-yard punt return and a 61-yard kickoff return, showing why he, too, is worth the trouble.
"That's what the preseason is all about," Kelly said. He said the Eagles work on ball security quite a bit. "You hope those guys learn, and you have a situation where you can talk to them about making great decisions in terms of where you are."
Because of Brown's odd path through the Tennessee and Kansas State programs, he reached the NFL before his older brother, Arthur, a Kansas State linebacker drafted in the second round this year by the Ravens. For two brothers from Kansas, it's kind of neat working about 100 miles apart.
Brown said the only advice he has given his brother is "how long the season is," something that no doubt seems especially true to a back who has already played more games in the NFL (16) than in his college career.
Chip Kelly said Nick Foles will start at quarterback Thursday in the preseason finale at the Jets, with Foles and rookie Matt Barkley getting most of the work . . . The Eagles still haven't made that one roster move to get down to 75 by 4 p.m. today . . . The team said about 12,000 fans attended the final public practice at the Linc . . . Asked whether Damaris Johnson's emergence has changed the original plan to use DeSean Jackson to return punts, Kelly said: "No, that's in the plan, but I know DeSean can return punts. We don't need to expose him in the preseason. But there will be a time when DeSean's back there."